tongue
Pronunciation
  • (RP, America, Canada) IPA: /tʌŋ/
  • (UK, Northern) IPA: /tʊŋ/
  • (UK, Manchester) IPA: /tɒŋɡ/, /tʊŋɡ/
Noun

tongue (plural tongues)

  1. The flexible muscular organ in the mouth that is used to move food around, for tasting and that is moved into various positions to modify the flow of air from the lungs in order to produce different sounds in speech.
  2. (countable, uncountable) This organ, as taken from animals used for food (especially cows).−
    cold tongue with mustard
    • 1902, E. Nesbit, Five Children and It, New York: Dodd, Mead, 1905, Chapter 4, p. 136,
      However you eat them, tongue and chicken and new bread are very good things, and no one minds being sprinkled a little with soda-water on a really fine hot day.# Any similar organ, such as the lingual ribbon, or odontophore, of a mollusk; the proboscis of a moth or butterfly; or the lingua of an insect.
  3. (metonym) A language.
    Synonyms: idiom, language, lingo (colloquial)
    He was speaking in his native tongue.
    • 1591, Edmund Spenser, “The Ruines of Time” in Complaints, containing sundrie small poemes of the worlds vanitie, London: William Ponsonbie,
      [...] Tower of Babel, which is so much renownd
      For tongues confusion in holie writ,
    • 1726, Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels, London: Benjamin Motte, Volume 1, Part 2, Chapter 2, p. 178,
      When I pointed to any thing, she told me the Name of it in her own Tongue, so that in a few Days I was able to call for whatever I had a mind to.
    • 1878, Thomas Hardy, The Return of the Native, Book 1, Chapter 7,
      To dwell on a heath without studying its meanings was like wedding a foreigner without learning his tongue.
    • 1958, Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart, New York: Knopf, 1992, Chapter 23, p. 166,
      Many of them come from distant places and although they speak your tongue they are ignorant of your customs.
    • 2002, Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex (novel), New York: Picador, Book 2, p. 99,
      My grandfather, accustomed to the multifarious conjugations of ancient Greek verbs, had found English, for all its incoherence, a relatively simple tongue to master.
  4. (obsolete) Speakers of a language, collectively.
    • 1611, King James Version of the Bible, Isaiah 66.18,
      I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see my glory.
  5. (obsolete) Voice the distinctive sound of a person's speech; accent distinctive manner of pronouncing a language.
    • circa 1596 William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act II, Scene 6,
      Who are you? Tell me, for more certainty,
      Albeit I’ll swear that I do know your tongue.
    • 1748, Tobias Smollett, The Adventures of Roderick Random, London: J. Osborn, Volume 1, Chapter 21, p. 173,
      [...] one of [the prisoners], whom by his tongue I knew to be a Scotchman, lamented most piteously [...]
  6. Manner of speaking, often habitually.
    • 1715, Daniel Defoe, The Family Instructor, London: Eman. Matthews, Volume 1, Part 2, Dialogue 2, p. 211,
      [...] his wicked way of Living, his prophane Tongue, and his Contempt of Religion, had made him not very well receiv’d [...]
    • 1886, Robert Louis Stevenson, “The Death of the Red Fox”, in Kidnapped, being Memoirs of the Adventures of David Balfour in the Year 1751: […], London; Paris: Cassell & Company, Limited., OCLC 1056292939 ↗, page 162 ↗:
      "Well," said he, at last, "your tongue is bold; but I am no unfriend to plainness [...]"
    • 1935, Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night, London: New English Library, 1970, Chapter 8, p. 205,
      I’m afraid I’ve inherited my uncle’s tongue and my mother’s want of tact.
    • 1952, John Steinbeck, East of Eden (novel), London: Heinemann, Part 1, Chapter 2, p. 8,
      Samuel had no equal for soothing hysteria and bringing quiet to a frightened child. It was the sweetness of his tongue and the tenderness of his soul.
    • 1972, Hortense Calisher, Herself, New York: Arbor House, Part 4, p. 369,
      [...] Frank Marcus’ The Killing of Sister George, technically a quite ordinary comedy in the old style [...] was remarkable [...] for the frank tongue of its Lesbians [...]
  7. (metonym) A person speaking in a specified manner (most often plural).
    • 1860, George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss, Book 7, Chapter 3,
      I know that we must keep apart for a long while; cruel tongues would force us apart, if nothing else did.
    • 1936, Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind (novel), Part 3, Chapter 30,
      [...] it was obvious to his listeners that Pittypat, in his mind, was still a plump and charming miss of sixteen who must be sheltered against evil tongues.
    • 2007, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, Wizard of the Crow, New York: Knopf Doubleday, Book 4, p. 592,
      [...] the drunk, who had been a permanent fixture in that bar, changed location and thereafter moved from bar to bar, saying to inquisitive tongues, Too long a stay in one seat tires the buttocks.
  8. The power of articulate utterance; speech generally.
    • 1717, John Dryden (translator), Ovid’s Metamorphoses in fifteen books, London: Jacob Tonson, “The Story of Pygmalion and the Statue,” p. 344,
      Parrots imitating Human Tongue
  9. (obsolete) Discourse; fluency of speech or expression.
  10. (obsolete, uncountable) Discourse; fluency of speech or expression.
    • circa 1597 William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 1, Act V, Scene 2,
      [...] fellows, soldiers, friends,
      Better consider what you have to do
      Than I, that have not well the gift of tongue,
      Can lift your blood up with persuasion.
    • 1692, Roger L'Estrange, Fables of Æsop and Other Eminent Mythologists with Morals and Reflexions, London: R. Sare et al.,
      Much Tongue, and much Judgment seldom go together, for Talking and Thinking are Two Quite Differing Faculties,
    • 1876, George Eliot, Daniel Deronda, Chapter 31,
      “[...] this Mr. Grandcourt has wonderful little tongue. Everything must be done dummy-like without his ordering.”
      “Then he’s the more whip, I doubt,” said Mrs. Girdle. “She’s got tongue enough, I warrant her [...]”
  11. (obsolete) Honourable discourse; eulogy.
    • 1621, Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher (playwright), Thierry and Theodoret, Act V, in The Works of Beaumont and Fletcher, Edinburgh: James Ballantyne, 1812, Volume 12, p. 374,
      She was born noble; let that title find her
      A private grave, but neither tongue nor honour!
  12. (religion, often in the plural) Glossolalia.
    Synonyms: speaking in tongues
    • 1611, King James Version of the Bible, First Epistle to the Corinthians 13.8,
      Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
  13. In a shoe, the flap of material that goes between the laces and the foot (so called because it resembles a tongue in the mouth).
    • 1990, J. M. Coetzee, Age of Iron, New York: Random House, Chapter 3, p. 96,
      I caught a glimpse of a brown boot, the tongue flapping, the sole tied on with string.
    • 2006, Sarah Waters, The Night Watch (Waters novel), London: Virago, Chapter 2, p. 53,
      [...] her low-heeled shoes had flat fringed tongues to them—the kind of shoes you expected to see on a golf-course, or a Scottish highland, somewhere expensively hearty like that.
  14. Any large or long physical protrusion on an automotive or machine part or any other part that fits into a long groove on another part.
  15. A projection, or slender appendage or fixture.
    the tongue of a buckle, or of a balance
  16. A long, narrow strip of land, projecting from the mainland into a sea or lake.
  17. The pole of a vehicle; especially, the pole of an ox cart, to the end of which the oxen are yoked.
    • 1986, Hortense Calisher, The Bobby-Soxer, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, p. 91,
      Far to the right, where the main pile sloped out, his cart reared tongue upward, like a plow.
  18. The clapper of a bell.
    • circa 1595 William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act V, Scene 1,
      The iron tongue of midnight hath told twelve:
    • 1940, Richard Wright (author), Native Son, London: Jonathan Cape, Book 2, p. 156,
      [...] the bell clanged so loud that he could hear the iron tongue clapping against the metal sides each time it swung to and fro [...]
  19. (figuratively) An individual point of flame from a fire.
    • 1818, Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Revolt of Islam, London: C. and J. Ollier, Canto 3, stanza 13, p. 63,
      Then up a steep and dark and narrow stair
      We wound, until the torches’ fiery tongue
      Amid the gushing day beamless and pallid hung.
  20. A small sole (type of fish).
  21. (nautical) A short piece of rope spliced into the upper part of standing backstays, etc.; also, the upper main piece of a mast composed of several pieces.
  22. (music) A reed.
Translations Translations Verb

tongue (tongues, present participle tonguing; past and past participle tongued)

  1. (music, ambitransitive) On a wind instrument, to articulate a note by starting the air with a tap of the tongue, as though by speaking a 'd' or 't' sound (alveolar plosive).
    Playing wind instruments involves tonguing on the reed or mouthpiece.
  2. (slang) To manipulate with the tongue, as in kissing or oral sex.
  3. To protrude in relatively long, narrow sections.
    a soil horizon that tongues into clay
  4. To join by means of a tongue and groove.
    to tongue boards together
  5. (intransitive, obsolete) To talk; to prate.
  6. (transitive, obsolete) To speak; to utter.
    • circa 1609 William Shakespeare, Cymbeline, Act V, Scene 4,
      ’Tis still a dream, or else such stuff as madmen
      Tongue and brain not;
  7. (transitive, obsolete) To chide; to scold.
    • circa 1604 William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, Act IV, Scene 4,
      How might she tongue me!



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